The Shining Hope Foundation’s work in the North Indian region of Bodhgaya seeks to not only go some way in supporting the underprivileged people in the region, but also make them develop new skills in self-sufficiency for both the current and future generation.
On our recent trip to the region, we had the opportunity to see the positive impact of our work, in conjunction with our partners Karuna-Schechen. Indeed, thanks to your donations, over the past year we have been able to expand our collaborative education, environmental and social reach to an additional six villages, bringing the total number of villages supported up to 18.
One of the new intervention programs we are committed to is reviving the old skills of ‘growing your own’ also known as Kitchen Gardens.
A report published this week by Oxfam has highlighted a global map of countries that reveals the most – and least – plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diets to their population.
The “Good Enough to Eat” index compares 125 countries and creates a snapshot of the different challenges people face in getting food.
Using four core concerns for consumers around the world, the index assesses whether people have enough to eat, can afford to eat, whether food is of good quality, and what the health outcomes are of people’s diets.
Somewhat inevitably, European countries occupy the entire top 20 bar one – Australia ties in 8th place – while the US, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada all fall outside. But most starkly, within the bottom 30 places lies India. It also has the most underweight children.
Perhaps to the surprise of some, having healthy and affordable food is not something that most of the world enjoys. For such a vast and economically booming country like India, where the riches and commerce of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata present a picture to the world of affluence, the food poverty crisis grows elsewhere in the country, as the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ widens. Poverty and inequality continue to drive hunger, supported by the poor distribution of food, failing markets, and people not having the money or resources to buy all the goods and services they need.
Under the social banner ‘Small Money, Big Change ‘, at time of writing, your support has meant 840 households across the 18 villages have been provided with fruit plants and seeds, and an additional 422 households have been given vegetable plants and seeds (such as brinjal, tomato, chilly, pumpkin, sponge gourd, bitter gourd, radish, ladies finger, mango, lemon and guava).
In total, this equates to 1000 kitchen gardens across all 18 villages that have been given resources to grow their own food, in order to feed their families and friends.
With an additional four already established in local primary schools, this project is starting to provide a well-balanced meal at lunchtimes for students, who also share important responsibilities for maintaining the garden.
You only need to look at the high rate of malnourishment in Bihar. Around 80% of children below five years of age and 68.2% of females aged 15-49 are malnourished. Those that own small farms do not escape poverty too, as 91% of the land holdings belong to farmers who practice cash cropping in an effort to escape the grinds of acute poverty. Commercial farming, in which crops are cultivated according to the market demand, limits the production of certain food crops and does not allow for self-consumption by the farmer’s family.
This is where ‘Small Money, Big Change’ really comes in. Not only does it fill this gap by providing proper nourishment through inexpensive, regular and a handy supply of fresh vegetables devoid of chemicals used in farming, but it supports a well-known fact that growing a kitchen garden positively improves the overall health conditions of a family. It also harks back to reviving the old skills of ‘growing your own’, something that had been lost in recent times due to mass farming.
From a positive financial perspective, the project has been planned so that 50% of the produce grown in the families’ kitchen gardens is kept aside for their consumption, and the rest sold in the market to earn some additional income. 30% of the profit from sales will add to the farmer’s household savings/consumption and the remaining 20% will have to be contributed towards community welfare.
Therefore while the target population will be able to utilise 80% of the produce for direct personal benefit (through their own consumption and earning from sale of vegetables) they will indirectly benefit through their community’s development, towards which they will be making a minimal contribution.
Vanessa is Communications Associate at the Shining Hope Foundation. She has recently joined the team and will manage the charity’s relationships with its current partners abroad.